Tips to Pack the Perfect Suitcase

by Veronica Lorson Fowler

The Holy Grail of packing for a trip is to have enough to wear without returning home with anything unworn, to not look so wrinkled that strangers on the street offer you spare change, and to carry your suitcase without putting your back out. Even experienced travelers have mixed success, because it’s impossible to anticipate every contingency. But the guidelines in this project help you get closer to that glorious state of perfectly packed.

Buy the right suitcase

A well designed suitcase gives you options: plenty of interior and handy exterior pockets, straps you can adjust and detach, expandable sides to accommodate more stuff on the trip back, hooks for hanging garments, even a built-in folding board for shirts.These days, there’s no reason to lug a suitcase without wheels. Look for one that comes with smaller carry-on bag (preferably also with wheels) that attaches to or rests on the big suitcase.Sturdy construction is important, but a good suitcase doesn’t have to cost a lot. Suitcases can be expensive to repair (and airlines are notoriously rough on them), so an inexpensive one you can easily replace might make more sense.

Check out cool travel accessories

Entire companies are devoted to selling accessories, devices, gizmos, appliances and garments that make travel easier. Check out a travel store at the mall, search for travel products online or stop by the nearest AAA store. One of the best developments is a rigid plastic board with a soft fabric sleeve for packing dress shirts with minimal wrinkling. Fold shirts around the board and tuck it into the sleeve. You can also buy a spray that instantly relaxes wrinkles — it really works!


Packing light is especially important as more airlines start to charge for checking bags. Start by picking a color scheme, such as khaki and black, or navy and white, so everything goes with everything else. Lay everything you think you need on the bed and then put half of it away before packing your suitcase. Here are pointers for making those tough choices:

  • For heavy garments, such as pants and sweaters, choose ones you can wear for several days without laundering.
  • For shirts and undergarments, opt for lightweight, quick-drying garments that you can wash by hand, and pack a small reslealable plastic bag of laundry powder.
  • Pack as few shoes as you can get away with, and when choosing between two footwear options, choose the lighter pair.
  • Wear your heaviest outfit on the plane (even if it means you have to pull off your running shoes when you go through security.)
  • Choose clothing you can layer so you’re ready for unexpectedly warm or cold weather.


Tuck socks and undergarments into your shoes and then place the shoes on the bottom of the suitcase, nested with the toe of one shoe facing the opening of the other. Put other heavy items on the bottom as well.

Then fold wrinkle-resistant T-shirts and knits in half or thirds and roll tightly. Make them the second layer.

Put more easily wrinkled items, such as a sports jacket and dress shirts, on the top layer of the suitcase.

Pack toiletries

To make sure you don’t forget an essential toiletry when you travel, keep a resealable plastic bag of travel toiletries to grab and go. You can buy travel-size items or fill small plastic bottles from the standard-size bottles you have at home. If you carry on a small suitcase when traveling by air, limit liquids and gels to 3 ounces and seal them in a 1-quart resealable plastic bag. If you check your bag, put liquids into their own bags if they would make a huge mess if they leak.

Tuck travel-size appliances and the bags or toiletries around the edges.

Freelance writer Veronica Fowler has traveled the world (Rajasthan was her favorite) and writes about lifestyle and travel.


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  1. Helpful info. Thanks.


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